Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band / Sweet Return

Album cover: too many colors and too much fun in photoshop Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band
Sweet Return
, FBR CD 005, 2003

Album Distributed by:
Festival Distribution
1351 Grant St..
Vancouver, BC, V5L 2X7

Like their most recent preceding album, "Tsirkus," this latest CD provides strongest evidence that the Flying Bulgars are one of the premier new Jewish music ensembles. Opening with a soulful take on the hasidic song, "Royz, Royz," and continuing with trumpeter Buchbinder's patented rhythmic and colorful crescendos in Bob Stevenson's "Shabbes Goyim/Ghosts" (or his own, fascinating title track, "Sweet Return", dedicated to his father), on to Andrew Downing's wood wind orchestra on "Was a Little Lad," the band proves its place among the most interesting, most listenable, and best of the new Jewish music bands. This isn't your grandfather's klezmer any more. In fact, it has long since ceased to be klezmer, except for the ability of the band to turn things on in a traditional vein at parties. On this record, they are exploring broader, newer, fertile pastures.

Marilyn Lerner's "Einstein's Hora," a sort of pastiche of jazz, classical, and traditional Jewish motifs, reflects that exploration well. Like other bands that began in the klezmer world, then moved deeper and farther--Brave Old World, the Klezmatics, Shirim Klezmer Orchestra--the Flying Bulgars make me smile and listen and tap my toes all at the same time. In between, David Wall's amazing voice turns almost everything he sings into Yiddish art song. Good, fascinating Yiddish art song. The result, as exemplified in Buchbinder's adaptation of an Avraham Sutzkever poem, "Ballad," or Dave Wall's own adaption of a different Sutzkever poem, "When Eternity Weeps," is something akin to a spiritual experience, a weaving of Jewish and musical existence in the world at large, unmistakable as another other than Jewish, Eastern European, Ashkenazic Jewish wrestling with the world.

It's not that the band has abandoned klezmer, either. "Wandering Hora/Sweet Daddy Sirba" and "Voyage of the Grandfathers" both explore klezmer, mostly as one expects to hear klezmer, but perhaps a bit newer and different. The point is that the vocabulary is larger. The world is larger. The closing "Shekhine" with its words in Yiddish and English, and melody and horns closer to soul than to nefesh, exemplifies how much larger the world now is. As Yehuda Amichai wrote, albeit in Hebrew, in his tale of leaving home, "past the sheaves at the end of the fields, I spilled myself, hot, into the world." By bringing so much music together in ways that work, and by setting great poetry to great music, the Bulgars bring us not just new Jewish music, but new Yiddish music. For a language that is supposedly dead, that's magic. And magic does, indeed, describe this album.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 6/6/03

Personnel this recording:
Daniel Barnes: drums
David Buchbinder: trumpet, fluegelhorn, bandleader
Andrew Downing: double bass, bass clarinet
Marilyn Lerner: piano, accordion
Bob Stevenson: Bb clarinet, bass clarinet
Dave Wall: vocals, alto saxophone

Special Guest: Jane Burnett: soprano saxophone

Stephen Donald: trombone (track 9b)
Levon Ichkanian: electric guitar, oud (tracks 5, 13)
John Johnson: tenor, alto, soprano saxes, Bb clarinet (track 13)
Rick Shadrach Lazar: dumbeq, rik, doholla, udu, tambourine (tracks 5, 13)
Roula Said: vocals, zills (tracks 8, 13)
Debahis Sinha: dumbeq, rik, doholla, tapan, bells, shakers (tracks 8, 12)


  1. Royz Royz (trad.) 4:24
  2. Shabbes Goyim/Ghosts (Stevenson) 3:13
  3. Einstein's Hora (Lerner) 3:58
  4. Ballad (music: Buchbinder; words: Abraham Sutzkever) 3:37
  5. Sweet Return (for Chaim) (Buchbinder) 4:27
  6. Was a Little Lad (Downing) 3:54
  7. Peacock and Turkey (music: Dave Wall; words: Peretz Miransky) 3:54
  8. Golem Nights (Lerner) 4:02
  9. Wandering Hora/Sweet Daddy Sirba (Stevenson / trad.) 6:29
  10. Voyage of the Grandfathers (Barnes) 6:09
  11. When Eternity Weeps (music: Dave Wall; words: Abraham Sutzkever) 3:27
  12. Only One, Riding (Buchbinder) 7:31
  13. Shekhine: Cut from the Same Cloth (music: David Buchbinder; words: Dave Wall, Kyo Maclear, Roula Said) 3:53

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